The Baldwin County doctor that treated former Alabama football players with adult stem cells also has treated at least two people diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
One of the ALS patients, former NFL football player and college coach Frank Orgel, recently underwent a new stem cell reprogramming technique performed by Dr. Jason R. Williams at Precision StemCell in Gulf Shores.
Former NFL football player and college coach Frank Orgel has been struggling with ALS for about eight years. (photo courtesy Precision StemCell)
Before the injections, Orgel’s health had declined. He could not move his left arm or leg. He couldn’t walk or stand on his own, he said.
Within a few days of having the stem cell treatment, Orgel’s constant muscle twitching diminished, said Bob Hubbard, director of stem cell therapy at the practice. Within weeks, he was able to walk in a pool of water and stand unassisted.
“I think it’s helped me,” said Orgel, who was a defensive coordinator at Auburn under former head coach Pat Dye. “I’m walking in the pool and I used to drag my feet. Now my left leg is picking up.”
ALS is a progressive neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to death, according to the ALS Association.
Stem cells, sometimes called the body’s master cells, are precursor cells that develop into blood, bones and organs, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates their use. Their promise in medicine, according to many scientists and doctors, is that the cells have the potential to help and regenerate other cells.
While Williams’ treatments are considered investigational, he has said, they meet FDA guidelines because the stem cells are collected from a patient’s fat tissue and administered back to that patient during the same procedure.
Orgel, 74, said Williams told him it would take between eight months to a year for his nerves to regrow. He is traveling to Gulf Shores from his home in Albany, Ga., this weekend for another stem cell treatment, Orgel said: “I need to get to where I can walk.”
In recent years, Orgel has gone to Mexico at least three times for different types of treatments, not sanctioned in the U.S. At least once, he said, he had placenta cells injected into his body. “That didn’t work,” Orgel said. “I didn’t feel any better.”
These days, he’s lifting weights and swimming twice a week as part of a physical therapy regimen.
Stem cell therapies
The technique performed on Orgel is called InVivo reprogramming, Hubbard said, which is described as reprograms adult stem cells into neural stem cells.
The procedure involves harvesting adult stem cells from the patient’s own fat, which Williams obtains through liposuction. Then, he uses image-guided therapy to insert the stem cells into the patient’s spine.
The patient is prescribed an oral medication that, as laboratory research has shown, causes stem cells to reprogram, converting them into neural stem cells, according to a written statement from the Gulf Shores medical practice.
Because of their experimental nature, stem cell injections to remedy conditions such as damaged knee joints or injured muscles are not covered by insurance. A typical stem cell therapy with Williams costs about $15,000. The collection of the cells through liposuction, he has said, makes up about half of the overall price.
Williams, a board-certified radiologist, said in a previous Press-Register interview that he spent about four years researching various stem cell therapies, including those collected from bone marrow. He said that the adult stem cells derived from fat tissue seemed to bring fewer chances for complications.
Harvesting stem cells from a patient’s own fat removes the need to culture cells, Williams said earlier this year, explaining that culturing stem cells can be a weeks-long process that may expose patients to risks such as infection.
In recent years, professional athletes such as Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and New York Yankees pitcher Bartolo Colon, among dozens of others, have acknowledged seeking stem cell injections outside the U.S. to try to help heal injuries.
FDA urges caution
Earlier this year, the FDA issued a consumer warning about claims regarding stem cells. In it, Stephanie Simek, deputy director of the FDA’s Office of Cellular, Tissue and Gene Therapies, said that stem cells from bone marrow or blood are routinely used in transplant procedures to treat cancer and disorders of the blood and immune system.
The document cautioned consumers, however, to make sure that stem cell therapy treatments have been approved by the FDA or are being studied under a clinical investigation allowed to proceed by the agency. “There is a potential safety risk when you put cells in an area where they are not performing the same biological function as they were when in their original location in the body,” Simek said.
Cells in a different environment may multiply, form tumors, or may migrate elsewhere in the body from the spot where they were placed, according to the FDA warning.
While several dozen clinical trials involving various forms of stem cell therapies are under way or have been announced around the world, few have included adult stem cells found in fat tissue.
Williams has said that universities and research groups have been slow to move forward because research funding tends to steer toward new drug therapies. He said that he is up front with his patients, telling them that results cannot be predicted.
“This new technique of InVivo reprogramming shows great promise for possibly repairing or regenerating nerve cells,“ Williams said in a written statement. “That means it may open up opportunities for treating several neural conditions such as spinal cord injury, stroke, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.”
Williams said the new technique has been shown to help increase the number of neural stem cells that are transferred back into a patient.
“We are hopeful this will indeed help us heal or regrow nerve cells,” Williams said. “However, it is still too soon to really know.”
Recent research has shown once again that only adult stem cells are capable of treating humans. Embryonic stem cells generate cysts and tumors and Induced Pluripotent stem cells develop genetic abnormalities when they are used. (Induced Pluripotent stem cells are those stem cells created by scientist who take simple adult skin cells and then regress them to an embryonic like state – see article below) – dg
Genetic Abnormalities Discovered After Creation of (induced pluripotent) Stem Cells
Discovery sheds new light on the process of stem cell generation, and will help promote safer stem-cell based studies and future clinical trials
Thursday, 10 March 2011
Dr. Andras Nagy’s laboratory at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute of Mount Sinai Hospital and Dr. Timo Otonkoski’s laboratory at Biomedicum Stem Cell Center, University of Helsinki, as well as collaborators in Europe and Canada have identified genetic abnormalities associated with reprogramming adult cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The findings give researchers new insights into the reprogramming process, and will help make future applications of stem cell creation and subsequent use safer.
The study was published in Nature.
The team showed that the reprogramming process for generating iPS cells (i.e., cells that can then be ‘coaxed’ to become a variety of cell types for use in regenerative medicine) is associated with inherent DNA damage.
This damage is detected in the form of genetic rearrangements and ‘copy number variations,’ which are alterations of DNA in which a region of the genome is either deleted or amplified on certain chromosomes. The variability may either be inherited, or caused by de novo mutation.
“Our analysis shows that these genetic changes are a result of the reprogramming process itself, which raises the concern that the resultant cell lines are mutant or defective,” said Dr. Nagy, a Senior Investigator at the Lunenfeld.
“These mutations could alter the properties of the stem cells, affecting their applications in studying degenerative conditions and screening for drugs to treat diseases. In the longer term, this discovery has important implications in the use of these cells for replacement therapies in regenerative medicine.”
“Our study also highlights the need for rigorous characterization of generated iPS lines, especially since several groups are currently trying to enhance reprogramming efficiency,” said Dr. Samer Hussein, a McEwen post-doctoral scientist who initiated these studies with Dr. Otonkoski, before completing them with Dr. Nagy.
“For example, increasing the efficiency of reprogramming may actually reduce the quality of the cells in the long run, if genomic integrity is not accurately assessed.”
The researchers used a molecular technique called single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) analysis to study stem cell lines, and specifically to compare the number of copy number variations in both early and intermediate-stage human iPS cells with their respective parental, originating cells.
Drs. Nagy and Otonkoski and their teams found that iPS cells had more genetic abnormalities than their originating cells and embryonic stem cells. Interestingly, however, the simple process of growing the freshly generated iPS cells for a few weeks selected against the highly mutant cell lines, and thus most of the genetic abnormalities were eventually ‘weeded out.’
“However, some of the mutations are beneficial for the cells and they may survive during continued growth,” said Dr. Otonkoski, Director and Senior Scientist at the Biomedicum Stem Cell Center.
Stem cells have been widely touted as a source of great hope for use in regenerative medicine, as well as in the development of new drugs to prevent and treat illnesses including Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injury and macular degeneration. But techniques for generating these uniquely malleable cells have also opened a Pandora’s Box of concerns and ethical quandaries. Health Canada, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union consider stem cells to be drugs under federal legislation, and as such, subject to the same regulations.
“Our results suggest that whole genome analysis should be included as part of quality control of iPS cell lines to ensure that these cells are genetically normal after the reprogramming process, and then use them for disease studies and/or clinical applications,” said Dr. Nagy.
“Rapid development of the technologies in genome-wide analyses will make this more feasible in the future,” said Dr. Otonkoski.
“In addition, there is a need to further explore if other methods might mitigate the amount of DNA damage generated during the generation of stem cells,” both investigators agreed.
An increasing number of couples are opting for stem cell banking,
discovers Zeenia F Baria
Stem Cell Expert Dr Satyen Sanghavi says that stem cells are cells found in all multi cellular organisms. They’re found throughout the body, but especially in bone marrow, in the peripheral blood (your circulating blood) and in the umbilical cord. “They are characterised by the ability to renew themselves through mitotic cell division and differentiate into a diverse range of specialised cell types. Stem cells divide themselves many times to make new stem cells. They can also transform into specific cells needed by the body to heal itself. Stem cells for transplantation can come from yourself/ your own body (an autologous transplant) or, more commonly from a donor (an allogeneic transplant). Stem cells can now be grown and transformed into specialised cells with characteristics consistent with cells of various tissues such as muscles or nerves through cell culture. Highly plastic adult stem cells from a variety of sources, including umbilical cord blood and bone marrow, are routinely used in medical therapies,” says Dr Sanghavi.
What is Stem Cell Banking?
A stem cell bank is a facility, which stores stem cells for future use. Umbilical cord blood is blood that remains in the placenta and in the attached umbilical cord after childbirth. Cord blood is obtained from the umbilical cord at the time of childbirth, after the cord has been detached from the newborn. Cord blood is collected because it contains stem cells, including hematopoietic cells, which can be used to treat hematopoietic and genetic disorders. Cord blood contains all the normal elements of blood – red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. But it is also rich in hematopoietic (blood-forming) stem cells, similar to those found in bone marrow. This is why cord blood can be used for transplantation as an alternative to bone marrow.
Why is it recommended?
Infertility Specialist, Dr Nandita Palshetkar says that stem cell banking is a simple, safe and painless procedure and happens immediately after birth after cutting the cord. “The cord blood collected is then transferred to the laboratory and frozen in cryogenic storage tanks for long-term preservation. Nowadays, the umbilical cord is also stored. Stem cells represent an exciting area in medicine because of their potential to regenerate and repair damaged tissue. Some current therapies, such as bone marrow transplantation, already make use of stem cells and their potential for regeneration of damaged tissues. Other therapies are under investigation that involve transplanting stem cells into a damaged body part and directing them to grow and differentiate into healthy tissue,” says Dr Palshetkar.
Storing your baby’s umbilical cord blood stem cells is an investment towards the future health of the family. “It ensures an exact match for the child and a more likely match for another blood-related family member, should the stem cells be needed for treatment. Unfortunately, if a stem cell treatment is indicated, families that have not privately banked their child’s cord blood stem cells end up searching for an appropriate source of compatible stem cells – searches, which can take months and still be unsuccessful. Cord blood stem cells from a family member are much more likely to be successfully transplanted than those from an unrelated donor,” says Dr Sanghavi.
Difference between stem cells from cord blood v/s bone marrow
Both bone marrow and cord blood stem cell transplants are designed to replace unhealthy cells with healthy ones. “Cord blood is blood that is collected from an infant’s umbilical cord after delivery, so that it may be tested, frozen and subsequently stored in a cord blood bank for future use. A bone marrow transplant, on the other hand, involves the use of bone marrow that is transplanted from a donor into the recipient in order to cultivate new stem cells. Stem cells are available in greater proportion from the umbilical cord as compared to bone marrow. Cord blood cells are have more generative capacity as compared to bone marrow cells. Cord blood cells can be used for those with lung, heart and kidney diseasewhere bone marrow cells are to be avoided,” says Dr Palshetkar.
Gynaecologist Dr Sonal Kumta says that more parents should opt for stem cell banking. “Cord blood can be stored by cryopreservation for future use for your child or any other family member. The baby will have a 100 per cent match with these cells and siblings will have 25 per cent match. This once in a lifetime opportunity helps preserve a biological resource for future use. It helps protect one from incurable diseases like leukemia and thalassemia while trials are in progress for Alzheimers, cartilage regeneration, diabetes, heart diseases, liver diseases, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, spinal cord injury and even strokes.
CATCH UP! They’ve been treating SCI patients successfully with stem cells for years now!
Stem cells may hold secret to multiple spinal injury repair
21 January 2011
Scientists may soon be able to repair multiple aspects of a spinal cord injury in humans, using adult stem cells.
A Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine study involving rats showed that use of multipotent adult progenitor cells (mapc) could prevent neuron retraction, promote new neuron re-growth and reduce inflammation in spinal injury.
Researchers will no doubt be hopeful that the development of such treatment can contribute significantly to reducing the costs of spinal injury treatment, which can range between $500,000 (£312,000) and $3 million (£1.9 million) in the US.
Commenting on the findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, university professor Jerry Silver explained: “Using preclinical models of spinal cord injury, we found that MAPC can both dynamically regulate macrophages, which cause inflammatory damage, and stimulate neuron growth simultaneously.
“Our results demonstrate that MAPC convey meaningful therapeutic benefits after spinal cord injury.”
Meanwhile, recent research conducted at Otago University suggests that cell tissue extracted from the nose could be transplanted to the site of spinal cord injury.
Scientists are hopeful the procedure could overcome blocks that prevent nerve cells regenerating following damage.
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Posted by Timothy Walters